10 Best Restaurants in Encino
On the very edge of Encino, Dough Girl is a gem of a pizza place. Jammed between a nail salon and a halal meat market, Dough Girl is more clubhouse than pizzeria. It’s the kind of pizza place a teenager with gourmet taste could only dream about before its existence. Further, the interior isn’t your daddy’s fast-casual — it’s street-casual. Banksy-ish graffiti art and decals decorate walls and counters. The place has a hangout vibe and is usually populated by hungry students from neighboring Birmingham High. What the kids are eating, though, is far from greasy, bready triangles of cheese pizza. The slices here are all New York thin, and the toppings are all over the place. The seasonal winter pie is layered with alfredo white sauce, ricotta, spinach and corn. Another is topped with sriracha, tomato sauce, jalapeños, cherry and banana peppers and, if you like it scorching, chili flakes. The Mobster is spread with a lobster tail bisque sauce and riddled with chunks of tiger shrimp. Obviously, Dough Girl still gotta sling the cheese pizzas or there’ll be unrest. But if you’re truly an invincible teen, you’ll be eating the Animal Style, a pizza with a Thousand Island base, American cheddar and french fries. The Dough Girl herself is an accomplished chef named Mar Diego. Remarkably, she’s put in time at Mélisse, Providence and Wolfgang Puck Catering. She even staged at elBulli for three months. Cooking competition show MasterChef, which tapes down the street, is among her regular, large-order customers. However, her priority is the neighborhood kids whom she feeds, mentors and even hires.
16851 Victory Blvd., Ste. 9, Lake Balboa. (818) 373-7300, doughgirl.pizza.
Claudine Kitchen & Bakeshop
Claudine is exactly the kind of restaurant you want your regular neighborhood eating place to be: spacious yet cozy, nicely designed but not trendy, like a laid-back Martha Stewart. It also should have good feng shui and even better food. Upon entering Claudine, the irresistible display of pastries beckons with treats like s’mores bites and jammy cookies way better than the Spitzbuben you’d rummage for in cookie tins. Statuesque, perfectly frosted chocolate cake, fresh and flaky crusted fruit pies, and mini bundt cakes disguised as doughnuts flirt with you in front of your spouse. The restaurant and bakery are named after chef-partner Anthony Jacquet’s late sister. He, pastry chef-partner Lea Newton and Shannon Wilkins are all Valley-raised locals and wanted to open the neighborhood place they always desired, so they did. Less than a year old, Claudine has tapped into the desire of many Encino residents, who have welcomed the restaurant with open arms. On the kitchen side, chef Jacquet and his team cook food they feel represents the Valley and the kinds of things they ate at friends’ houses growing up. Fried chicken sandwiches, chilaquiles, turkey chorizo tacos and the crowd favorite, breakfast naanza (a pizza on naan bread), are samples of Claudine’s interpretation of how the Valley appears on a plate. A recent weekly special of black vinegar chicken adobo dives even deeper into the area’s palate. Although Jacquet is classically trained and has worked at Getty property restaurants, his cooking at Claudine is a delicious high-five to his hometown’s food scene.
16350 Ventura Blvd., Ste. F, Encino. (818) 616-3838, claudinela.com.
The energy in this mainstay Cuban mini chain is infectious, as if news of Americans being allowed to travel to Cuba was just announced. The Encino outpost of Versailles is as vibrant as any of the others, with each massive platter of Cuban carbs and protein paraded out and announced as if it were the grand opening. Shy flavors are not welcome here, in this boisterously seasoned place, where the oxtail stew is hunky, tender and wading in a spicy tomato sauce, and garlic chicken is thick with stinking-rose pungency. The portions are famously huge, practically guaranteeing a doggy bag every time. The beef tongue and sauteed lamb lunch specials are welcome additions to the regular menu choices. If you’re going to fight the futile battle of ridding yourself of the garlic mojo criollo sauce clinging onto your tongue after eating lechon asado, the flan will have to suffice.
17410 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 906-0756, versaillescuban.com.
Lum Ka Naad
The Valley has a lot of Thai restaurants, but not many of them can match the selection and execution of Lum Ka Naad. This specialist of Southern and Northern Thai fare has its original location in Northridge, but Lum Ka Naad’s reputation for real-deal Thai soon spread all over L.A., and a second location in Encino opened. Lum Ka Naad’s menu is broken down by food type into categories such as noodles and “from the grill,” but the most interesting stuff is listed in the regional sections. The Southern Thai fish curry, called tai pla, is spicy, fermented and funky, made with smoked fish fortified by a fermented fish paste and additionally funkified with bamboo shoots. Good luck finding tai pla anywhere else in the Valley. Representing the North is khao soy, a curry with egg noodle and chicken drumstick. This heap of a bowl is on the creamy side and sweetly spicy. A drumstick juts out of the mound of chewy noodles swimming in mild curry. Dress the bowl’s contents with a squeeze of lime, a spoonful of pickled cabbage, some shallot and the chili sauce, then slurp. Let’s not even get into kang kae with frog legs. Lum Ka Naad is almost too good for Encino.
17644 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 616-2338, lumkanaad.com.
Oh Man! Ramen
Chefs Luke Reyes and Phillip Frankland Lee got into the ramen game to offer a different kind of ramen — the kind that maximizes flavor without weighing down the eater. Applying French technique to traditional Japanese ramen making, the team coaxes every bit of flavor for their broth from bones of Berkshire-Tamworth hybrid pigs in addition to beef knuckles and chicken backs. The springy noodles are made in-house with high-tech help from a fancy pasta-maker and a circulating cooker fashioned from submarine metal. The chashu pork belly is braised until creamy, and the confit shoulder is succulent and savory. Although Oh Man’s tonkotsu broth is not thick like most around L.A. (that’s by design), all the taste is certainly there. Oh Man! Ramen may not be the top ramen in town, but it absolutely is Encino’s best.
16101 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 646-6085, ohmanramen.com.
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